JOHN F. BRETZ. - John F. Bretz, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, February 21, 1845, and is a son of John Bretz, whose birth occurred in Hesse Castle, Germany, August 26, 1812. He was a brick maker by trade, learning the business in his native country, after which he came to the United States in 1836, following his trade in Kentucky, where he also engaged in contracting. Subsequently he carried on brick making for a number of years and now he is living at a ripe old age in the enjoyment of a well earned rest. In 1857 he came to Springfield with his wife and six children, and two children were added to the family in this city, but they buried four children in Kentucky and two in Springfield. Those who still survive are Mrs. Garrett Westenberg, John F., James, Elizabeth, Catherine and Charles J. The mother, who was born in Culpeper, Virginia, in 1821, died in June, 1900, and was laid to rest in Calvary cemetery.
John F. Bretz was educated in the subscription schools of Kentucky and in the old second ward schools of Springfield, and when he put aside his text books he began working with his father, and later formed a partnership with him. They had a brickyard on East Jackson street and another on North Fifth street and continued in business together until 1870, when the partnership was dissolved, our subject accepting the position of inspector of materials for the new state house. In 1870-71 he had charge of work on the Michigan canal, and in January, 1872, following the Chicago fire, he went to that city, where he purchased and sold materials for six months. Next he located in Christian county, Illinois, where he established a brickyard which he conducted for a year. He then again formed a partnership with his father that was continued until 1877. In that year, John F. Bretz was a candidate for street commissioner of Springfield, and being elected, served during the years 1877 and 1878. In 1879 he formed a partnership with Thomas White, dealing in all kinds of construction work. They carried on a heavy contracting business for some years or until 1887, and in the meantime Mr. Bretz was employed by the city as superintendent of its streets in 1882, and in 1887 was again called to that office, serving until the close of 1890. He acted in this capacity while the greater part of Springfield's pavement was put down and was a very active and capable member of the board. In 1891 Mr. Bretz again began contracting on his own account on the construction of sewer systems and street paving, and in 1894 he admitted his son John E. to a partnership. They have since continued the business and the firm is now well known and has a large patronage. Mr. Bretz has laid the greater part of the brick pavements in this city, and in addition, has done much work on the laying of sewers. He employs a large force of men and important contracts have been awarded to him. These he has faithfully executed and a growing business is indicative of his capability and his straightforward methods.
On the 2d of July, 1866, occurred the marriage of Mr. Bretz and Miss Mary Quaid, a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin. They have eight children, of whom six are living: John E., who is with his father; William F., of this city, who is married and has four children; Laura, the wife of E. P. Barrett, who is general auditor for West Virginia and Ohio with the Traders' Insurance Company of Chicago, and resides in that city with his wife and two children; Eva, the wife of George Fixmer, a wholesale liquor dealer, by whom she has one child; Catherine, the wife of Richard Carroll of Chicago; and Mary, who resides with her grandparents. Gerrard died at the age of eight months and Loraine died at the age of fifteen years. The wife and mother passed away September 7, 1881, and was laid to rest in Calvary cemetery. Mr. Bretz was again married December 28, 1882, his second union being with Mrs. Maria (Hurley) Dow, a widow, who was born and reared in this city. Since 1884 they have resided at their present home at No. 1113 North Fifth Street.
Mr. Bretz has erected several dwellings and business blocks in the city which he owns, having made judicious investments of his capital in real estate. He belongs to St. Joseph's parish, and in politics he is a Democrat who took an active interest in the work and growth of the party, but since 1896 he has not figured prominently in political circles. He is, however, a liberal supporter of all measures for the general good and also of his church. He belongs to the Mercantile Club, to the Modern Woodmen Camp and to the Royal Areanum and is a man of domestic tastes. The name of Bretz has figured in connection with business interests in this city for many years, for the father was one of the pioneer brick manufacturers here and the son has now for some time been associated with heavy contracting work. That his contracts are faithfully executed and the work done in an efficient manner is indicated by the many times he has been employed by the city. The firm also does a
large business throughout the state and, in fact, extending into portions of Indiana, and it has done business as far south as Louisiana.